http://www.datatransmission.co.uk/features512.aspx In The Studio: Icicle Written By: BenGomori It’s said by many that drum & bass is probably the hardest of all the dance music to produce, with such intricate percussion, high levels of automation and unforgiving bass demands. Dutch producer Icicle knows this all too well, but years of practise have enabled him to become one of the scene’s most talented producers, with a slew of releases for the genre’s finest labels (Soul:r, Critical, Med School, Shogun Audio, Ram, C.I.A., Renegade Hardware) under his belt in the last 3 years. Throw in the fact that he’s been working on projects in other genres, and he’s ideal for our studio tips feature. So pay attention people – and if any of that jargon goes over your head, get your Google on! Samples First off, especially when making music such as drum & bass, dubstep or hip-hop, you need to have a decent collection of sounds. Anything from sample CDs with drum hits, synth hits, pads or sound design textures is very useful and you will have a place to start from rather than to make everything from scratch which is possible but very time consuming. Reason Personally, I’ll sketch out a tune in Reason first. I’m generally able to get all the basics down within an hour or two. The good thing is you can do this with a laptop and headphones while travelling or away from home. I still prefer the Reason drum computer and the Thor synth to many of the plug-in alternatives. Rewire Once I’ve got a good vibe going in Reason I will rewire the tune through Logic. There are many online tutorials on the internet explaining how to do this - just Google ‘rewire through Logic’ or search YouTube. This should really only take you 2 minutes and makes the Reason multiple outputs correspond with a chosen number of auxiliary channels on your Logic mixer. Logic When I get my Reason tracks playing through Logic the real processing can begin. Especially the reverb and some filters are miles apart from the Reason standard FX. My favourite plug-ins include PSP, Ohm, Camel Audio and the channel strips I can runs off my SSL Duende. For sub, FX-y stuff and even kicks, I use the default sound in the EXS24 a lot. I personally hate the way you have to set up instruments and prefer other samplers, but for basic sine wave manipulation, it’s perfect. Drums My drums usually consist of a basic kick and snare, sometimes old funk loops or techno type glitchy drum loops with everything from rides, shakers and extra hi-hats over the top. For the main kick and snare, don’t layer too much. A kick (or any drum hit) has a distinct musical pitch. Especially with layering kicks, the chances of getting phase cancellation in transients are really high and it will take away from the impact. So if your kick sounds weak, just keep looking for a better one. Bass Most of my bass is made in the reason Thor synth and then processed in Logic over multiple channels and buses. Basic steps in making bass include multiple oscillators with minute changes in pitch to get movement, distinct filter movements, saturation or full-on distortion with phaser or chorus type modulation at the end. Because said types of modulation introduce stereo movement in your sound, and stereo low frequency movement will destroy a vinyl cutting machine, you will always have to split your channel afterwards into a sub mono bus and stereo mid and hi bus. I roll the sub bus off at around 150 Hz to be safe. Music I like to write a lot of the music myself rather than using sampled pads etc. although there’s nothing wrong with that. Once you find a set of synthesisers you like and understand, you will have and almost limitless supply of sound. A stab for instance is easy to make; play a chord in a synth, keep the envelope short and punchy and put an envelope controlled LP-filter over it with again punchy values. Play around with the envelopes to get it right. Busing Like described under the bass section, busing is essential for sub, but it’s also a lot of fun for beats. With beats, after having a processed channel of kick and snare and for instance hi and mid range percussion, busing them together to one buss with a little bit (or tons!) of limiting can be the final touch. Your beats will sound more coherent and not just like a kick and snare with some loops on top. Also use the (pre-)sends on bass or music to create slightly different, parallel process routes on top to create a more thick sound. Outboard processing A final and advanced stage is outboard processing. To do it right you’ll need to invest in your studio a lot - but it will set your music apart that last final bit. I used to use a Mackie mixing desk for overdriving midrange sound but have found I now get better results with especially Ohm plug-ins. Outboard compression on the other hand is amazing. I use a TLaudio valve compressor for beats, or sometimes even on the master to get that analogue warmth the extra harmonics from a valve circuit provide when overdriving them a little. Also the responsiveness of hardware compressors seems unique to me and when using them at their limits there will be no little glitches. Keep going Apart from all the technical stuff, the most important thing to remember is to just keep going. When you want to make music and you know it for sure, you will make that killer tune. Within a year or within 50, all it takes is time. A recognisable sound is not something you can learn but have to develop from your own taste, so put in the hours. There’s no shortcuts to be learnt from me or anyone! Icicle's Cold Fear EP is out now on Shogun Audio (www.shogunaudio.com ). Also watch out for Minimal Funk as featured on the forthcoming Shogun Evolution Series1 EP due for release Feb 2010. Expect his debut album later in the year.